“Twelve-fifty,” the turban-wearing cab driver said in heavily accented English. The young man stepped out of the cab and handed the driver a ten and a five.
“Keep the change,” Peter Regal said.
“Thank you, sir,” the driver said deferentially. “Cheap jerk,” he added in his native tongue.
“Sorry, it was all the cash I had on me,” Peter replied flawlessly in the driver’s language. The driver stared at him, goggle-eyed, and sped off.
Peter chuckled to himself as he entered the Belgravian Embassy. Most days it stung that his tiny country could not afford the luxuries other ambassadors enjoyed, such as limousines. Today, it had given him a laugh, something all too rare these days.
“Good afternoon, Ambassador,” a bright-eyed, alert young staff member said cheerfully. The boy couldn’t have been more than twenty — a student, most likely.
“Good afternoon, Glenn,” Peter said as cheerfully as he could muster after the long and boring speech he had just listened to at the United Nations.
“I have the report you asked for, sir,” Glenn said. “It’s on your desk, typed with bullet points and highlighted sections.”
“Very good, Glenn. Thank you.” Peter hesitated. “Um… what report?”
“On the history of the Belgravian Embassy, sir,” Glenn said.
“Oh, right, that. Yes, thank you.” Peter silently wondered at the lad. He had made a casual remark, wondering what this building had been before Belgravia had decided it needed an embassy in New York City. He had really only been thinking out loud, and had forgotten all about it. This boy was eager, industrious, even, with a strong work ethic. Well, a few years in the real world would knock that right out of him.
“And there’s a visitor in your office, sir,” Glenn added.
“A visitor?” Peter asked, confused. The ambassadors from Tsergovia and Maylohda had said something about getting together to discuss the Dellamare Proposal, but they wouldn’t just show up without making an appointment, would they? He was, after all, the representative of a tiny nation of no consequence.
“Yes, sir,” Glenn continued. “He said his name was Mr. Scarlet. I put him in your office.”
“Mr. Scar–? Oh, no,” Peter sighed, rolling his eyes. He strode quickly to his office and thrust open the door. A lean, muscular man of about forty was seated behind his desk, reading the report Glenn had prepared on the history of the embassy building. A large duffel bag lay on the floor next to him. When the door opened, he looked up with a twinkle in his eye.
“Hello there, Peter,” he said, grinning. “You’re looking quite well. The life of a diplomat agrees with you.”
“Hello, Father,” Peter sighed.
“This report is very interesting,” Albert Regal said, thumbing through the typed pages. “Did you know this building was originally built in 1925 by a German immigrant named Albrecht Burkhalter, and it was originally called the Alpenstock Hotel?”
“Father,” Peter said, more forcefully.
“Burkhalter was a Nazi sympathizer,” Albert went on, oblivious to his son. “During World War II, he planned for his hotel to become the headquarters of Nazi occupation forces after the invasion of New York. Of course, that never happened.”
“Father,” Peter said, quite sternly.
“In April, 1955,” Albert continued, “the hotel was seized by the state for nonpayment of taxes. It’s gone through various official functions since then, such as meeting hall for the Police Athletic League in 1968 and ’69, and auxiliary offices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs while their regular office was being repainted in, let’s see, 1973. Very thorough, this report.”
“Father!” Peter shouted.
Albert peered over the report, as if surprised to see his son standing there. “No need to shout, Peter. I’m right here. What can I do for you?”
“Do? Do?!” Peter gasped, on the verge of apoplexy. “Father, what are you doing here?”
“Does a father need a reason to visit his only son?” Albert asked, rising from his son’s chair.
“You do,” Peter shot back. “At least, you haven’t had one for the last eight years.”
“That’s true,” Albert said. “We’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”
“Catching up?” Peter repeated, astonished. He could barely believe this.
“Come on, son,” his father said. “Let me buy you dinner. I found a little restaurant not far from here that does passable Belgravian cuisine. Run by a former kitchen boy in King Paul’s palace, if I’m not mistaken. Or have your tastes become so Americanized that you’d rather we go to the Big Belly for burgers?”
“Th-the Belgravian place sounds fine,” Peter said, stunned. “Let me get my coat.”
“Not bad, not bad at all,” Albert said around a mouthful of food. “I haven’t had goose in plum sauce like this since I left Belgravia. How’s yours, son?”
“It’s all right,” Peter said noncommittally. “Father… why are we here?”
“Why, I just wanted to catch up with my son, that’s all,” Albert said, lifting his glass of wine. “Do you remember the good old days, Peter? When we defended King Paul against his enemies as the Scarlet Bowmen?”
“All too well, Father,” Peter sighed.
As long as he could remember, his father had been a romanticist, an adventurer, seeking thrills and excitement. Having been born into Belgravian nobility had left him without the need to work, so there was no useful occupation to fill his time, channel his energy. The mother Peter had never known had died in childbirth, and, although the elder Regal would never admit it, that left another big void in his life, which he tried to fill with action and excitement. Hunting, climbing the mountains near their tiny nation, flying his private plane — none of these were enough for the thrill-seeking Albert Regal. Then came the fateful day.
“Peter!” Albert Regal had cried, racing into the room where his twelve-year-old son read a leatherbound copy of the Iliad. “Peter, look at this!”
“What is it, Father?” Peter asked, looking at the newspaper his father thrust in front of him. It was a newspaper from America, weeks old. It chronicled the adventures of a pair of masked vigilantes, super-heroes they were called, who battled crime with bows and arrows. The Green Arrow and Speedy, the newspapers called them.
“That could be us!” Albert cried, stabbing the photograph of the ace archers with his finger. “We could be Belgravia’s masked defenders, fighting crime with bow and arrow!”
“We could?” Peter asked simply, not believing his father was serious.
“Of course!” Albert insisted. “We hunt with our bows all the time; we’re excellent archers! We can hunt criminals and seditionists just as easily!”
“Father,” Peter said, “with all respect, criminals would be more difficult to hunt than quail and goose.”
“Oh, come now, Peter!” Albert insisted. “If these two Americans can do it, how hard could it be?”
“I don’t know, Father,” Peter said. “Why don’t you ask them?”
The elder Regal’s face lit up. “You know… I believe I shall.”
And he did. He sent a cablegram to the Green Arrow, in care of the Star City police commissioner. Green Arrow responded, and after a few correspondences agreed to come to Belgravia and train Albert Regal and his son to become Belgravia’s masked archer defenders, much like other international archers had become their nations’ versions of Green Arrow. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Scarlet Bowmen,” Adventure Comics #226 (July, 1956) and “The Green Arrows of the World,” Adventure Comics #250 (July, 1958).]
Looking back, Peter figured that Green Arrow, in whatever other identity he had, must have been a businessman; given the existence of the Green Arrows of the World, it was as though he were trying to establish a franchise.
“Good times,” Albert said wistfully. Peter stifled a sigh. It was clear that he and his father remembered the days of the Scarlet Bowmen quite differently.